Opinion: Don’t blame Olivia Ray – prize payouts are a sport-wide issue

For those who don’t know Olivia Ray, she is the New Zealand National Criterium Champion and is currently under contract to race for a US-based Continental women’s team, Rally Cycling. She is also known for making biking a safer space for everyone through discussions about mental health awareness and body positivity.

In October, Ray won the professional women’s race at the inaugural Into The Lion’s Den criterium in Sacramento. It was a significant victory for her and her team.

It was also a celebration for women’s cycling as a whole, as the organizers of the event billed as one of the richest criteria in US history offered a $ 100,000 purse split apart. equal between men’s and women’s 70-minute races, the kind of parity rarely offered in cycling.

The inequality of prize money in cycling has been a topic of discussion several times during this season, and therefore the promotion of equal price for equal work at Critérium Into The Lion’s Den was a welcome and positive message. which attracted a quality domain.

On Tuesday, more than five weeks after the event, Ray asked why she had not yet received her check for the winner’s $ 15,000 prize in a post to her personal Twitter channel and in a statement provided to us. at Cycling news.

When a rider asks when he can expect to be paid for his work, that is a fair and legitimate question. Likewise, expressing concern at the limited communication from event organizers regarding the payment deadline is justifiable.

However, Ray has come under fire from the sport for voicing her concerns, including derision and dismissal of her concerns, especially through social media comments.

Ty Magner, who races for L39ION from Los Angeles, questioned the legitimacy of Ray’s late payment investigation. “Lol. If you don’t like to wait a month for a cash prize, I suggest you don’t win any cash prizes in Europe. ‘UCI prize money management’ likes to sit on solid years. of gains, ”he posted. on Twitter.

When another commentator asked for a response from the organizers of Into The Lion’s Den regarding Ray’s late payment and expressed concern about the organizers’ lack of communication to his attendees regarding the cash prizes, Magner responded. : “How many times have we all waited for cash prizes” Patiently, like adults? “

He added: “It clearly shows your ignorance of our sport. You know how many times as runners we wait for cash prizes in almost every big race that we do? I’ve waited over a year. for money over and over. Often the biggest event in our country, or the country where the race was held. “

Magner’s teammate Tyler Williams added to the social media discussion, saying: “Let them run for the gift cards from now on.”

He went on to suggest that Cycling news should “now hold each race responsible for payment within 5 weeks. I’m still waiting for cash prizes for 2016, I think,” in response to our posting of Ray’s concerns.

Ray deleted his first social media comments and issued a public apology the next day.

Ray has no reason to apologize and the fact that she has been criticized for asking a valid question is disturbing. His experience sheds light on aspects of sport that allow things like coercion, intimidation and other forms of financial abuse, especially towards those who are not in positions of power.

In recent years, cycling has progressed by providing better protections to the rights of athletes regarding contracts and compensation, ethics and professionalism, especially for women. All of them have led to a safer space that encourages athletes to speak up when something doesn’t seem right.

When a runner is not allowed to ask questions or voice concerns, it sets the sport back in its overall efforts to create a professional environment and a progressive culture. It shows that sport has more work to do in this space.

The Los Angeles L39ION is a great example of a team pushing for such positive change to move the sport forward and promote diversity, inclusion, representation and non-compliance, all of those things that make them one of the most inspiring teams in cycling. We should all welcome and uplift athletes who raise valid concerns about issues in sport.

Late payments of prize money do indeed occur all the time and at all levels of cycling events, and it is not uncommon for some payments to be delayed for up to a year.

Organizers of Critérium Into The Lion’s Den have said all runners will soon receive their cash prizes, which would be considered a faster timeline than many other events. Just because late payments happen all the time doesn’t mean that everything is fine and it’s not something that should be accepted or standardized. (KF)

Cycling struggles to deliver the promised prices

Ray is 23 years old and is only in his first professional season. Most of the small races she did pay their small prices directly after the race. She may not be aware of the sometimes long lead time for bigger prize wins, but in her naivety, she makes a valid point about an issue that has been a bone of contention for teams and riders at the level of. base to the top of the WorldTour. as long as the sport has had a professional component.

We can only guess at the behind-the-scenes damage control that led Ray to characterize his valid complaints as “inexcusable and unwarranted,” but a social media commentator noted, “I’ve been riding a bike for a little while, but I have to say that a rider forced to video confession as a hostage for complaining about a late payment really shocked me. It’s amazing. This is bossy. This is deeply wrong. “

Everything that happened behind closed doors overnight shows exactly why the lack of earnings is usually not openly discussed. The delicate sponsorship model of professional cycling gives sponsors enormous leverage – both those who support events and those who fund teams, which sometimes overlap. This puts enormous pressure on the riders and teams who rely on this support, even in the absence of direct threats from sponsors, to avoid negative press.

That said, there have been a few high-profile complaints about late prize payouts in professional cycling over the past few years, so the organizers of Into the Lion’s Den can rest easy. The organizers of the Tour de France have been criticized for not having quickly paid the prices of the Tour de France 2007, after having identified the multiple cases of doping that year.

But it doesn’t always take doping scandals to delay the payment of prizes. Several editions of a major one-day race in the now-defunct US had prizes paid only after cashing sponsorship checks the following year, and some runners say they’re still waiting. the awards won years ago.

Because women are still paid much less than their male counterparts, with some runners not even earning a salary, the cash prize becomes even greater. But any runner expecting a five-figure check could be forgiven for being a little impatient, especially with year-end bills to pay.

In addition to a runner’s difficulty in securing cash prizes, there is a common practice of paying teams for races and then relying on them to divide and distribute the money. This has opened the door to economic abuse, where teams can withhold runners’ prizes as punishment or coercion.

The problem has even become part of the reforms of UCI President David Lappartient, the Frenchman offering WorldTour teams in 2019 a centralized management system for cash prizes to remove responsibility for the distribution of team payments and allow the UCI to monitor the payments. (By some accounts, it failed to resolve the issue.)

The organizers of the Into the Lion’s Den criterium promoted their event incredibly well with an ambitious professional marketing effort, but this intense campaign also served to exaggerate runners’ expectations, especially with the record purse price.

However, the race was quite opaque as to who the actual organizer was and who was in charge of the payouts. The inexperience of the organizers shows itself in the midst of this controversy. Going forward, they would be wise to communicate with teams and riders and set payment expectations, which is usually provided in the technical guide.

But the race did not have a technical guide and was not sanctioned by any governing body, so there is no organization holding them accountable for keeping their promises.

And since the governing bodies that have promised to resolve the prize payment issues haven’t been able to make any changes, it leaves the riders in a position where they have to defend themselves. Ironically, two of the L39ION riders – Ty Magner and Tyler Williams – pointed out the UCI’s failures in their disparaging responses to Ray.

So why should Ray accept the status quo? All she asked for was a schedule and some race confidence. She doesn’t deserve the backlash she gets.

Neither did the race organizers, apparently the L39ION team. They should be applauded for their ambition. Organizing a race is not easy and even the most prominent organizers fail to do it all every time. There are a lot of moving parts and something is sure to be overlooked, but communication is key.

We hope that the race organizers learn from this year’s event and that things go much easier in the future. (LW)

Comments are closed.